HL Deb 28 April 1879 vol 245 cc1221-38

in moving for a Select Committee to inquire into the effects of rendering the Militia available for service in Colonial garrisons, said: My Lords, it would be easy to point out the circumstances from which this Motion has originated. It would be easier to glance at prospects and results which call for deep consideration of our military system from all to whom our foreign policy is interesting—a class which seemed last Session to include the greater number of your Lordships. But it is so important to economize, if not the time, the patience of the House, that it may be better, perhaps, at once to put them in possession of an argument which fully justifies the Motion. A few years back a Committee in the War Office was appointed to inquire into some points connected with the Militia, and particularly the brigade depôt system. It ended in a Blue Book, which, in 1877, was presented to the Houses. The very question on which my Notice bears was referred to by a variety of witnesses. The Secretary of State for War, in examining the late General Peel, recognized its magnitude, and betrayed a certain hesitation with regard to it which was not at all discreditable to his judgment. In the questions he put, he had the air of balancing the rival claims of a Militia raised upon the compulsory principle, not to be sent beyond the United Kingdom, and a Militia raised upon the present footing, liable to serve in garrisons wherever it was wanted. The Report, however, leaves the problem perfectly unsettled. There is no conclusion with regard to it. You have, therefore, the Department seeming to call out through the Secretary of State himself for that further light which Parliamentary inquiry may occasion. It would, perhaps, be useful hero to mention two or three Acts of Parliament which tend to obviate the prejudice against anything which even points to a larger use of the Militia than has hitherto existed. The first was passed during the war with the American insurgents, and enabled the Crown to send the Militia to any portion of the Empire. It must, however, have been temporary. The next is that which makes it possible to send the Militia from England to Ireland, or from Ireland to England. Further on, there is the Act for the Militia going upon the Continent, if they propose to do so. I touch on these Acts without mentioning their titles, because, with many others, they have been collected in a well-known work by Mr. Clode, a member of the War Office. They illustrate the march of the development the Force has constantly been going through from the time when it was wholly local in its character, and could not operate beyond the county which the regiment might belong to. As to the terms of the Motion, I have been guided, so far as I was able to recall it, by the precedent of a Committee which this House appointed, in 1860, to inquire into the results of a change at that time projected in the suffrage. You might, of course, devote the inquiry to the effect on recruiting for Militia, or the effect upon the Army, or the effect on the Volunteers; but it is not desirable to limit it with too much technical precision, and thus abridge the valuable evidence which military witnesses may offer. My Lords, these considerations appear to justify the Motion, although they may seem to be minute and trifling in character, if you glance at other topics by which it might be easily supported. Before I glance at them, it is better to place myself under the shelter of some great authorities who, long ago and recently, have questioned the system of our Auxiliary Forces, at least so far as to insist that they may usefully be modified. The first I mention, because the most remote, is Mr. Windham, the brilliant contemporary of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, who rather curiously held the post of Secretary at War under both of those illustrious rivals. He was also a distinguished officer of the Militia in his time, and could not, therefore, have a prejudice against it. The long effort of Mr. Windham, as it has passed to our day in many speeches which he left behind him, was to protest against and mitigate the error, as he deemed it, of neglecting a real Army in order to nurse and foster an approximative substitute. He once remarked that between the Volunteers and the Militia which encompassed it the true element of national defence was literally hidden; that it resembled a young lady whose identity was lost in the sweep of drapery which lengthened or expanded her, referring to a well-known phrase of Ovid. Pars minima est, ipsa puella, sui. I cite the passage only as a key to the line of thought by which the efforts of Mr. Windham were pervaded. He once remarked to a Government he was opposing, when they had brought the Auxiliary Forces to the number of 400,000—"You have not raised an Army, and you have made it impossible to raise one." Let me remind the House that the system Mr. Windham was perpetually criticizing, although, no doubt, it vanished after the Peace of 1815 during a long interval, in our day is very nearly re-established. To come at once to our contemporaries. Sir John Burgoyne never ceased to point out how little dependence could be placed on Auxiliary Forces when Forces of a longer training had to be encountered. Sir Lintorn Simmons, in some degree the author of short service, did not scruple to arraign the Militia as it stood in 1871, on grounds which have not now been superseded. Colonel Anson, whose well-known publication followed, would have put an end to the Militia on its present footing altogether, and looked on Volunteers—although latterly he served with them himself—as an organized rebuke to the authorities whose inefficient measures rendered them desirable. The latest of these military personages, whose work only appeared in January last, Major Griffiths, although a keen supporter of everything done by the late Government, admits that the Militia have not been brought to any satisfactory position. It is only to avoid unnecessary length that I read no extracts from the different works and pamphlets I have mentioned. They have been most of them so much in the hands of military and political society that a mis-statement of their tendency would be too rash a course for anyone to hazard. What is the conclusion which they point to? They certainly are not directed against the Militia as a body, whose valuable services and qualities do not admit of being contested. The lesson to be drawn from them is that Auxiliary Forces can only be relied on for service in garrisons either within the United Kingdom or beyond it. These military reasoners contend, that, without a twelvemonth of continuous drill, you cannot make a soldier, as regards the discipline of mind and not alone the aptitude of movement, which are necessary to that character. In a shorter period, as many noble Lords are well aware from their experience, the recruit may be well fitted for all the wants of the parade, but not for the vicissitudes of fighting and the hardships of campaigning. But none of our Auxiliary Forces are trained, at first, during a twelvemonth. Under the present system, the Militiaman gets, at the outside, three months—one fourth of what is requisite; the Volunteer, when he first joins, has 30 days, and after that his drill is wholly intermittent. These Forces, however meritorious, from a defect they are not able to control, are not sufficiently prepared for actual collision with an enemy. Their inevitable function is to garrison strong places. But to garrison the different posts of the United Kingdom will not, according to a reasonable estimate, require upwards of 200,000, the number which the Volunteers are gradually attaining. The greater part of the Militia are thus available for such a service in the Colonies. But what is the advantage of demanding it? It is that when a difficulty of any sort arises all the Regulars are liberated from strongholds which would otherwise absorb them, and the Executive is not required to denude India, or oven to impoverish its force, in order to replace them. But there is another light in which the subject may be viewed, and if we view it in that light, the same conclusion will be vindicated. Some of their commanders may object to the position—well supported as it is—that the Auxiliary Forces have not sufficient discipline at once to join a line of battle. Let me grant they have, or suppose that the deficiencies of men would be corrected by the zeal of those who led them into action. Let me start from the hypothesis that they are ready to encounter an invader, no matter how highly disciplined the Forces he produces. But, at least, there must be an invader to confront. What if the whole range of European probabilities should be incompetent to furnish one? In that event, how can the Auxiliary Forces—except in garrisons—be utilized? Now, such is the exact position of the moment. The Militia in 1852, the Volunteers in 1859, were organized exclusively to secure Great Britain against one Power, which since then has gone through terrible reverses, which, no doubt, has regained considerable strength, but all whose energy is kept in store either for internal difficulties or a struggle on its Frontier. Why did the Duke of Wellington, Sir John Burgoyne, and Lord Palmerston insist on the Militia being revived? Because France appeared to them a formidable neighbour. Why did armed men, in the shape of rifle corps, appear to spring out of the earth, after the Italian campaign? Because, justly or not, ideas and doubts as to French policy, with which the soil of Great Britain was impregnated, produced them. The whole purpose of those two Forces, in the eyes, at least, of those who established one and authorized the other, is exhausted. We may consider it in this way. Had France been in her present situation in 1852, would the revived Militia have been proposed by any Government, or sanctioned by any General Election? Had France been in her present situation in 1859, would any House of Commons have begun an outlay, to arrive at £500,000 annually, on a secondary and supplemental body of Irregulars? No new source of probable invasion has been opened. Germany is occupied with France, as France is occupied with Germany. These two Forces—even if their discipline is such as to prepare them for every military trial—ought not to be a burden on the taxpayer, unless they can be utilized in garrisons. We come, by a now path, to the conclusion that when one of them suffices for garrisons within the United Kingdom the other cannot be sustained, unless available to man the garrisons beyond it. There is, therefore, only one consideration by which this line of argument can possibly be weakened; and it may easily be shown that the consideration is inadequate to meet it. It is sometimes remarked, my Lords, that regiments of Militia are certain to pro pose themselves for service in the Colonies, whenever danger happens. How can you possibly be certain that all the necessary regiments will propose themselves when none of them are bound by contract, interest, or loyalty to do so? Whether they will or not depends, first on the opinion, and then on the ability of the commander and the leading officers around him. But it is said that during the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny regiments were prepared to leave the country, and that, therefore, they would do so in every contingency. There never was an inference more startling. In those two junctures the public was remarkably excited and remarkably unanimous. But your Lordships have not forgotten the lessons of the Eastern Question long before you have emerged from it. The House has not forgotten that a nation may be violently agitated as to whether Treaties ought to be upheld, or ought to be surrendered, whether war ought to be made against the Power which Europe, a short time back, united to support, or against the Power which Europe, a short time back, united in resisting. When a regiment is asked to do something extralegal and gratuitous, these questions, fatal to its strength and order, are lighted up in its interior. How can you tell to what impression they may lean as to the policy which makes it requisite by them to garrison Dependencies? But if the system of depending, without law, on the enthusiasm or virtue of a regiment, is satisfactory in the Militia, why should we hesitate to introduce it to the Army and the Navy? Brigades would be still more disposed without necessity to enter a campaign, and Fleets spontaneously to cruize in distant waters which required them. If such a status is utterly anomalous, imperfect, and precarious in one part of the Military Forces, it cannot be adapted to another. The fact is, it would not for a moment be endured, unless an apprehension had occurred that to extend the liability would check recruits for the Militia. But that is the very point on which inquiry is appropriate. It is the point which nothing but inquiry can determine. The evidence of the Committee at the War Office, so far as it has gone, refutes the apprehension. The House is only now invited to complete it. My Lords, if I introduce another topic, it is because neither I, nor anyone on this side of the House, has a majority to back him. Whoever it may be, he must depend on the conviction of the Government. Now, from something which took place before they came to Office, the present Government, it seems to me, are under a peculiar obligation to accede to such a Motion as the present. One of their most distinguished Members, the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), now presiding at the Foreign Office, in March, 1871, brought forward the whole subject of international engagements, and the resources for upholding them. What he then urged bears so immediately on what I am contending for, that I might adopt his whole statement as a portion of the case to be submitted to your Lordships. But first, let me remark that the noble Marquess was not alone. He was supported by a former Minister, now, I think, included in the Cabinet. There is no reason to suppose that his opinions are not shared by his present Colleagues. But, so long as they are not repudiated by himself, considering the post he holds, they must exert some influence upon the Government. The noble Marquess dwelt upon our guarantees, which, in the Return he asked for, occupy 100 pages, and are shown to apply to Belgium, Sweden, Portugal, the Sublime Porte, Switzerland, perhaps to other Powers which escape me. But then—and this is the essential matter—he went on to inquire what is our provision for upholding them? For many of them the Navy would not be available; the Auxiliaries are kept at home, and, according to the estimate he formed, 100,000 Regulars contained the only prop of these extensive obligations, The noble Marquess, I am led to think, considerably overestimated the Force that year at our disposal. No matter. The opinion is on record—and it may fairly be considered the opinion of the Government—that 100,0U0 Regulars were insufficient to maintain the Treaties of Great Britain. Since 1871 our guarantees have not been lessened in their number. But when demands exist in Africa, in India, in European Turkey, perhaps even in Egypt, which at that time were not contemplated, how much less can 100,000 Regulars suffice for all the foreign objects of the country? But who dreams that we have 100,000 Regulars at this moment available for executing guarantees? Unless, therefore, the mature conviction of the noble Marquess and his Friends is now repudiated by the Cabinet, they must admit some change is indispensable. As far as we have learnt, however, they are not increasing but diminishing the Army. What course is open to them, except to pave the way by a legitimate inquiry for a better and more elastic use of the Auxiliary Forces? But if the Government are clearly bound to acquiesce in such a Motion, their Predecessors have not the slightest reason to oppose it. It disturbs no single measure they have patronized; it revives no military feature they were anxious to efface. Neither the linked battalions, nor the depot centres, nor the sub-districts, nor the short service, nor the new Reserve, nor the officers we owe to Sir Charles Trevelyan and his movement, nor any change which is associated with the noble Viscount near me (Viscount Cardwell), can be disturbed by the inquiry I ask for. If I am able in any manner to interpret them, the late Government are opposed to the existence of a supernumerary Force. But it has been shown to-night that, in the present state of Europe, the Militia is a supernumerary Force, unless Colonial garrisons are able to rely upon it. Noble Lords, whose minds have not been drawn particularly to the question, may very likely feel that although a strong or specious case in favour of the Motion may exist, there must be some objection latent to themselves which greater knowledge would discover. After a good deal of research, and intercourse with many persons, only one is known to mo. The Blue Book, in some degree, reveals it. It may be reasoned that to bring back the compulsory basis of the Militia is desirable on a variety of grounds which have been frequently discussed, and to restore that compulsory basis would not be so easy if the Force was bound to go by law out of the Kingdom. The answer is an easy one. As things stand, no Government has any hope of restoring what is called the ballot for Militia. It has been urged in vain by no less a person than the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) in the other House of Parliament. Moments for restoring it have passed away more promising than any we are now entitled to look forward to. Beyond that, the advantage of the ballot has been very much contested. The noble Earl who last presided at the Foreign Office (the Earl of Derby) once delivered a short argument on this point, which has been often quoted and never satisfactorily answered. It is probably familiar to many noble Lords, who may not be so well aware that Mr. Clode, the master of this subject, has pointed out that the ballot is far from recommended by the experience we have of it. His laborious researches have convinced him that it has only operated for six years of our history, and that in that time it did not gain more than the small number of 8,000 conscripts for the Kingdom. But Lord Norreys, an eminent commander of Militia summoned by the War Office, goes so far as to contend that to render the Militia available for Colonial garrisons by law would not be the slightest hindrance to the re-enactment of the ballot. It probably occurs to him that the ballot could not be restored unless invasion was a mat- ter of solicitude; that, if it was, the Militia would rather be drawn from Colonial garrisons than to them; so that the ballot would suspend whatever hardship might reside in the augmented liability. The more conclusive view appears to be that Governments are not entitled to forego a solid gain in order to keep up a visionary prospect. That objection will not, I think, be urged unless it falls from the noble Viscount the Under Secretary of State for the War Office (Viscount Bury). The noble Viscount is a zealous patron of what he terms our "ancient Constitutional" Force—a sort of language which is innocent enough, unless adopted as a pretext for resisting every improvement in it. However, since the Mutiny Act, there has been no ground for this invidious reflection on the Army as if it was not Constitutional. When the Militia was transferred from the Lords Lieutenant to the Crown, it became still more unmeaning and irrelevant. Before, however, the House is swayed by anything which falls from the noble Viscount on the subject, it would be well to call to mind the arithmetic with which he favoured us last Session. According to the noble Viscount, the Militia contained 102,877 efficients. These figures were not sifted. In the absence of the Prime Minister the House was adjourned by a coup de main, before the Motion then before it had been withdrawn, negatived, or carried. But in another place the statement did not pass unchallenged. A distinguished person in the military line resolved upon exposing it, and pointed out that when the Militia Reserve who had joined the Army, and the number absent without leave on the day of inspection were deducted, the efficients were only 60,527. Not, however, that I blame the Under-Secretary for such a strange miscalculation. He had not sat long in this House; he was new to the Office which he holds, and, above all, to the political connections he has recently adopted. A novice will always be entitled to indulgence; unless, indeed, he so far forgets himself as to assume superiority, and denounce public men as irrepressible—because they well know that when they are acting upon well-founded convictions, and sustained by other minds, even if 50 Under Secretaries were barking or even biting at their heels, the fact ought not to be repressing. I The House, fortunately, has a better arbiter than the noble Viscount the Under Secretary on the question now before it, since I observe in his place the illustrious Duke who commands the Forces of Her Majesty. The part he will take to-night is utterly unknown to me. Whatever it may be, I well know that it will justly influence your Lordships. The illustrious Duke is in the habit of addressing this House as a judge, rather than an advocate of either side, on military questions which present themselves. I ask for nothing but his tried impartiality. If, after weighing what is said in opposite directions, his conclusion is that our external Force is altogether what it ought to be, is equal to our guarantees, our interests, our objects, that it is not worth while to gain the certain power of liberating regiments now absorbed in Mediterranean posts for efforts better suited to their discipline and valour, the Committee to which I urge the House can scarcely happen now, and the result at which it aims—however certain in the future—will not be brought about by the initiative of your Lordships. The noble Lord concluded by moving for the Select Committee of which he had given Notice.

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the effect of rendering the militia available for service in colonial garrisons.—(The Lord Stratheden and Campbell.)


said, he had listened with great attention to the speech of the noble Lord; but he had failed to gather from it that he had any particular plan to propose in substitution for the existing system. He should have thought that the noble Lord, in proposing the appointment of a Select Committee to investigate the principle upon which the Militia had hitherto been organized, would at least have laid before their Lordships some objection to the principle upon which it was at present organized, and under which, upon the whole, it seemed to have worked remarkably well. The noble Lord had travelled over a vast historical expanse, beginning with the American War and with the old Ministers for War, Mr. Windham and Mr. Pitt. He had not, however, quoted any one authority who had suggested such an alteration as the Motion of the noble Lord implied. Neither Pitt nor Windham suggested that the Militia should serve out of the country. The first time that the Militia were employed out of England was in 1812, when, under a special Act of Parliament, a small brigade of Militia was sent out to Portugal; and during the Crimean War a number of Militia regiments went out to Malta and other garrisons. But that was a purely voluntary service; and it was by law obligatory in every commanding officer to explain to every man that he was not bound to go out of the country. The proposal of the noble Lord was that the Militia should be bound by their engagement to do that which they now did perfectly well and most efficiently without any engagement at all. Whenever we had had to call upon the Militia for assistance they had always given their services cheerfully and purely voluntarily. He held in his hand a list giving the names of 39 regiments which had in 1876–7–8 volunteered for embodiment, and that would have been a sufficient number to have met all our requirements. In these circumstances, therefore, what would be the use of unnecessarily imposing upon the hundred and odd Militia regiments which we possessed duties which had hitherto never been imposed upon them, which might prove distasteful to them, and which they voluntarily undertook when the emergency arose? The last time that the noble Lord brought forward this subject he (Viscount Bury) had stated that if the change he advocated were made, the Government would have to dismiss every one of the men in the first instance, and then to re-engage them, and, therefore, to run the risk of having no Militia Force at all. The noble Lord had referred to the different Acts which had been passed dealing with the Militia, and, therefore, he (Viscount Bury) would briefly touch upon the various statutory provisions which had been made in regard to it. Originally, no Militia regiments ever went on foreign service; but in 1802 the Militia Act was passed, by which the Militia Service was re-organized, and on which, up to a very recent period, the Militia Service was based. By that Act it was provided that except in the case of actual invasion the Militia were not to be sent outside the United Kingdom. Various Statutes were subsequently passed, to which he need not particularly allude, which to some degree modified the Militia Service in respect to their liability to serve outside the United Kingdom. Whereas, at first, they were not to be called to serve out of the country in which they were embodied, it was enacted that they were not to go out of that part of the United Kingdom to which they belonged; then it was enacted that they were not to serve out of the United Kingdom generally, unless it was in Ireland; and it was not until 1854 that a special Act was passed—we being then in a state of war—which did away with the obligation that there should be an actual invasion of this country before the Militia could be embodied, and Parliament enacted that the being in a state of war was a sufficient reason for the embodiment of the Militia. The regiments he had referred to were accordingly sent out to garrison some of our stations abroad. The next modification of the rule was made at the time of the Indian Mutiny, when it was thought necessary to pass a special Act of Parliament under which the Indian Mutiny was regarded as a state of war as far as concerned the embodiment of the Militia. That state of things continued until the passing of the Act of 1875, when the provision that the Militia were to serve outside the United Kingdom only in the event of an invasion was for the first time repealed, and an Ordinance was substituted for it that only in the case of grave national emergency, to be declared by Parliament or by the Queen in Council, was the Militia to be called upon to serve out of the United Kingdom. And so the law remained at present. He did not think it necessary to do more than refer briefly to these Statutes, and to point out that Parliament had always been most careful not to depart from the principle upon which the Militia was originally raised. Even the last departure—if departure it might be called—had been made most carefully and only after extreme deliberation. It was true the Militia was a popular Service; but this was so because in the Militia the men knew they would not be called upon to go outside the United Kingdom. It was to a certain degree difficult to obtain recruits for the Army, because men did not know where they might be sent to; but it was easy to fill up the Militia to any number, because it was established by Statute in the most positive manner that the Militiaman should not, except at his own free will and after certain strict formalities, be sent out of the Kingdom. But if a change were made, to enable the Militia to be called upon for service in our Possessions all over the world, the same difficulty would be encountered in recruiting for the Militia as for the Line. He felt sure their Lordships would see no good reason to-night for departing from the old historical basis upon which the Militia had been raised. It would, in this case, be a good principle to leave well alone. For these reasons, he could not but hope their Lordships would refuse to grant the Committee for which the noble Lord had moved.


desired to support the Motion of the noble Lord for a Select Committee. He thought our Army was far too small for the requirements of the country, the country would carry on its business more satisfactorily and with greater economy if it were larger and better up to military requirements which might be put upon it. It was the worst economy to attempt any undertaking with insufficient means. Our insular position enabled us to do without the gigantic Armies which were sapping the strength of foreign nations; but, at the same time, it entailed upon us certain disadvantages. We had vast Dominions and numerous Colonies and Dependencies scattered all over the globe. Those had to be garrisoned by a considerable number of our Regular Forces. We were liable to sudden wars in our Colonies, which might occur at times when we were engaged in more serious undertakings, and when it might be of the greatest importance that the Regular troops locked up in such places as Malta and Gibraltar should be available for immediate service in the field; their place, might be taken perfectly well by the Militia. His noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for War had shown that to send the Militia out in this way would not be contrary to precedent. It would be but a step—though, no doubt, a large step—to extend their field of service from the United Kingdom to the Empire. We had another available Force at home in the Volunteers. England owed much of her former greatness to the excellence of her marksmen, and warfare showed a tendency to return to its primitive methods. As weapons of precision attained to greater excellence, we had to rely more and more on the skill and intelligence of the individual soldiers. Under these circumstances, the Volunteers were an exceedingly valuable part of our national defence, and were quite able to take the place of the Militia, who might be sent out of the country. He did not know whether the proposed change would be popular with the Militia. The noble Viscount's statement that in cases of emergency the Militia always volunteered for service seemed hardly consistent with his argument that the change would give rise to difficulty in recruiting. A Committee would be likely to elicit valuable information upon this point as well as others, and he therefore hoped the inquiry asked for would be granted.


said, that formerly the Militia could only be called upon to serve for 56 days in any one year; and he remembered that at the passing of the Act which abolished this restriction a very large number of men laid down their arms, amounting, in many cases, to 15 or 20 percent of the whole regiment. It was advisable that the terms of service should be thoroughly understood. He believed that in the agricultural regiments—for which alone he would venture to speak—a large proportion of the best soldiers would not be willing to engage themselves for service beyond the sea, though they might be perfectly willing, under their own officers, to follow the standard of England wherever they might be required. Under the Act which abolished the 56 days' limit powers were given to form Volunteer Artillery battalions; but it was found difficult to fill up their ranks, because the men were taken from their own comrades and officers. It was necessary to consider very carefully the position of the class from which the Militia were drawn before introducing any important changes in the condition of their service. A large proportion of the men were young agricultural labourers, who had not so far gained sufficient experience to enable them to obtain employment all the year round, and it was very important not to deter them from joining. There was all the less reason for the change proposed that a considerable number of the men could always be counted upon in an emergency. When the Indian Mutiny broke out, for instance, many of them desired to extend their service to India; but they declined to enlist in the Regular Army, saying—"We will go with our regiment and our officers, but we will not pass into other ranks."


My Lords, I should gladly support the appointment of any Committee of Inquiry into the organization of our Army that I believed would have any practical effect in helping to promote its efficiency. But I must honestly confess that in the course of this discussion I have not heard a single argument that would justify your Lordships in granting what has now been asked. I may say that I have had some experience in this matter, and my opinion is that where it is possible to avoid a change it is always desirable to do so. Undoubtedly, great changes in our system of service sometimes become necessary, and I am sure your Lordships will give me credit for never having opposed changes when they have clearly become necessary. But change for the mere sake of change is certainly objectionable, and in this case I think a sufficient case has not been made out. To carry out the suggestion of the noble Lord would merely create suspicion in the minds of the men, and that in itself is undesirable. It is really astonishing what an effect small changes sometimes produce. With the object of the Motion—which, as I understand it, is to render our small Army as available for service as possible—I perfectly sympathize; but I cannot approve the means by which it is sought to obtain it. Surely it would be better to obtain what was wanted without any alteration in the constitution of the Militia. On great emergencies—in times of war and crises—we have obtained the object we desired, for we have always been able to count upon a large number of volunteers from our Militia whenever the emergency required them. The object of the Motion is, in fact, attained by the voluntary system, and any such change as that no w proposed would probably have an unfortunate, instead of a beneficial, effect, by deterring men from joining the Force in the first instance. We have been told that some of the very best men in the Militia are quite willing to serve at home, but are averse to serving abroad. Were that feeling very prevalent, we might suffer a very serious loss; but I am afraid, if service in the Militia abroad were made compulsory, we should suffer still greater loss. Moreover, I believe, if we were to make service abroad compulsory, we should have to re-construct our entire system of enlistment for the Militia. We should have to re-engage every man now serving in the ranks, for we could not have men serving side by side under wholly different conditions. It would be impossible to enlist new men on the understanding that they were to servo abroad, whilst we should be unable, by the terms of their enlistment, to send abroad the men already in the ranks. The proposal of the noble Lord would, in fact, if carried out, break up the Militia Service altogether. We might, by adopting compulsion, lose the services of 20,000 or 30,000 men, which would not likely be counterbalanced by any advantages to be gained by the new system. We have positive knowledge that any change in the conditions of enlistment produces unfortunate effects, and the very idea that a change was impending might frighten away intending recruits under the present system. Therefore, whilst quite agreeing with the motive which has prompted the noble Lord to bring on this question, I believe his object is not to be gained by the method he proposes. Under the circumstances, I think it would be a mistake to grant the Committee.


said, the subject was most important, that the efficiency of the Militia was essential; and it was known to the authorities and to inspecting officers that those regiments which were most efficient were those which contributed fewest recruits to the Line, and so vice versâ. It would be a misfortune if Militia service abroad were rendered compulsory; but while he regretted to differ from the illustrious Duke, he thought that a full inquiry and discussion on so important a subject could do no harm.


said, that the time was coming when the question would be seriously put before the country whether we should retain those two Forces in their present anomalous condition. He could not but think it would be a considerable advantage if the Militia could be made available for the Mediter- ranean garrisons as well as the home garrisons. He well remembered with what satisfaction the regiment to which he had at that time the honour to belong received the order to join the garrison at Gibraltar. Neither did he fear that the transition from the one system to the other would be attended with the injurious effects which some of their Lordships apprehended. All that was asked for was inquiry, and he hoped some such inquiry as that proposed would not be long delayed. Considering the smallness of our Army, and the largeness of the material interests they had to protect, some such inquiry could not but load to good.


said, it was necessary to explain in what manner he proposed to act with regard to the Motion. The noble Viscount the Under Secretary of State for War had not delivered a single argument against it. He had harangued on an imaginary Bill to extend the service of the Militia without inquiry, and not upon a Motion to inquire how far it would be safe and possible to do so. The noble Viscount thought it proper to judge in his own sense the very question on which evidence would have to be collected. He asserted dogmatically that men would not recruit, if they had to go by law into Colonial garrisons. But the assertion of Lord Norreys was diametrically opposite; and Lord Norreys was an experienced commander in the Force with which the noble Viscount was wholly unconnected. But if the noble Viscount had not touched the question now before the House, the illustrious Duke had done so. He had betrayed an apprehension that the inquiry, as it proceeded, would disturb the classes who now flowed to the Militia. Whether or not the remark was a convincing one, it made it more difficult for their Lordships to inquire. It was an old maxim that you could not reason with the master of ten legions. He would not ask his noble Friends who had supported him to-night to array themselves against the illustrious Duke in a Division. On that ground, and on no other, he decided to withdraw the Motion.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

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